Empty nest in the age of COVID

Just before COVID hit in March, I decided to take the plunge and sell my three-bedroom house. I bought a two-bedroom condo that is under construction, with plan to sell the house in September. Of course, two weeks later, both kids (one in college, one in her mid-twenties) moved home. My older daughter will return to her NYC apartment, where she lives with roommates, but she is really sad and unsettled about the loss of her “home base.” I had planned to put two beds in the condo guest bedroom, with a curtain divider, but she says that is silly and not worth the trouble and will just sleep on the sleeper sofa in the living room. I would really like to carve out a space that she can call her own. Any thoughts or suggestions for how to help her with this transition and how to make the new condo functional for the three of us?

I think it is sad for young people to lose their home base especially when they are still living with roommates and may not really feel like they have a real home, but it’s kind of a normal sad thing. I think that’s part of why she is saying it’s silly and not worth the trouble to put a divider up–she knows it’s not realistic for all mid-twenties types to still get a bedroom at home. But it is still sad.

I still remember how sad I felt when my divorced parents sold the house as soon as I graduated from high school. My mom was looking at a two bedroom condo, and I also have one sister. Looking at the actual condo was a real moment of realization for me that I would not have a real home base. But I understood that my mom needed to move on and that my parents had held on to the house long enough for me to finish HS. It was time.

but it was still sad! My advice would be to really acknowledge that it is sad, and let her express those feelings.

^^^ Very true.

OP I would express and recognize those potential feelings as @orangepurple stated above. And I would make this not YOUR problem to solve but all of you. The two bedroom condo is what you have to work with. Get everyone’s input as to how to make the space work best for everyone. And let her know that having her there now and in the future is something you enjoy and want to be open to always!

I’m sad my parents are about to sell my childhood home and I’m 58. It does feel like I’m losing my home base.

And I’m still sad that my parents had to sell their big house in Seattle suburb, with far too many stairs for 80-somethings. It was not my childhood home, but was the hub for most of our vacations when my own children were growing up and filled with the things I had grown up with.

Having this happen when everything is so unsettled and worrisome is not helping, I imagine. I second the good advice you have gotten from the above posters. Acknowledge her sadness and let her work through it.

We are in the process of selling the home my kids grew up in from ages 2 and 5. It was not my favorite house but was the perfect house to raise kids in. Interestingly, neither is the least bit sad. One said, “I have the memories from growing up there. I don’t need the house.” Both kids have said that in an ideal world, they would like to raise their kids (none exist yet) in the same town.

@dragonmom, ShawWife and I helped my mother sell the house I grew up in. No sadness here at all.

We do have numerous friends whose kids are showing up at their parents house in the pandemic. Why pay rent in SF or Brooklyn or Chicago to work at home in a small apartment when all the restaurants and bars are closed and they can’t socialize? However, some parents, like @2wuhanmom have downsized to glass boxes in the sky. When the kids have come home, it is tight. In one case, three kids came home and they were mad that their parents were selling their childhood home (for an architecturally significant home overlooking a pond). Just exquisite view. But, tight squeeze for the kids.

Other friends have had the kids move into the parents’ vacation houses. Then the parents go visit on weekends. Not clear that is the best SIP. We moved to a bigger house and would have been delighted for our kids to come home. But they are living together on the other coast, working hard and having a fun time.

I live in a rented one bedroom after selling my house 6 years ago. My kids don’t mind at all. One squeezed into a tiny extra room for Feb. and March. The other two are across the country and wouldn’t fly here anyway, for fear of being infected or infecting me.

One of my kids told me “Mom, it doesn’t matter where you live. Home is where you are.”

For kids who return, I kind of don’t get it… are they quarantining? If you have a big house with more than one bathroom, that might be possible, but in a one bedroom apartment or two bedroom condo with one bathroom, it is tough.

I do miss my kids! Zoom isn’t the same of course. They would gladly sleep on the floor if it was possible to see me :slight_smile:

What’s really sad is when you grew up in a home that you don’t ever want to go back to. I left at 18 and never went back. Ironically, now my mother wants to live with me!

We moved the day after our daughter graduated high school. The first summer before college started it was very difficult for her. We went back to our old state and had friends come out to see her four times that summer. The old friends now come out for New Year’s. It’s been a new tradition.

That said she, She now has a number of college friends that live in the vicinity of our new home so breaks are much easier for her now. Plus almost no one has been home for either summer because of jobs. That’s made it easier as well.

It’s a little sad for me that she doesn’t consider our new house to really be home because it feels that way to me but I think it’s all part of the growing up and moving on.

Lots of my friends had their adult kids move in in the spring and the kids are not only still there but many have not renewed their city apartment leases. These kids moved from Boston, NYC, Seattle, etc. back to the suburbs where the parents felt the kids were safer. The kids like the saving money aspect and feel that since they are working from home no need to pay big bucks to live near their job. And there is no after work socializing that they are currently missing out on.

I think part of this trend is that these kids don’t feel very tied to the community where they work. My daughter, on the other hand, loves where she lives in a city and would rather work from home there then move back with her parents. These young adults move from city to city as they start their careers (much more easily than we did) and therefore don’t put down new roots. I am happy that my daughter feels “rooted” to the city she has lived in for 8 years (including her college time).

I’ve been thinking about this some as we (largely ME) are considering a local move in the next year or two. All 3 of my kids are highly emotional and memory driven kids and I know they would be sad to say goodbye.

That said…

  1. It’s the house they are attached to, not the neighborhood so much.
  2. As long as the new house has room for them (it would) I think they would get over the move and enjoy learning some new space with us.
  3. It IMO is SO not ok for H and I to not consider a move - a fresh start and new adventure- for our kids who are not here 96% of the year!!!

Hopefully we would tell our kids to make choices on what works for them and their lifestyle 96% of the year. We deserve the same.

All my kids are home, 2 from college and one who started working last June but wasn’t interested in living alone. With the college situations ever evolving I’m not sure whether the college students will be here or there: or maybe start there and end up back here. The oldest will continue WFH which she’s content with at the moment. I’m happy she’s able to save some money and it’s fun having her back with us after college.

I love our house and am not looking to sell in the near future even though once the kids leave it’s a bit too big for 2 people.

@abasket, on point 3, we are so happy we sold the house where we raised our kids and moved to a new house. Our kids are happy for us too. Go forth.

My 2019 grad has a job and apartment in DC, but has moved back with us in Philly as long as her office is shut, which is now until at least January. She will not move out of her apartment but doesn’t want to both live and work in that small space 24/7 with little opportunity to socialize elsewhere. She loves DC and she has lots of friends there, but many have also moved back home temporarily. Transportation in the city is also an issue since she doesn’t have a car and doesn’t want to use public transportation. She currently enjoys having the bigger house and deck to spread out, and the ability to easily meet up with local friends to socially distance outside, and being here with us has helped her deal with her current pandemic realty and anxiety. So I empathize with your daughter feeling sad about losing a space in the family home she can call her own right now, and encourage you to explore and validate any feelings she has around that.

When we moved, we sold the house that we moved into when I was five months pregnant. So the only home our son knew, and we sold to a developer. He had boomeranged back home and was working locally. So not only did we kick the little birdie out of the nest for the second time, the nest was then torn down. Son was happy for our move and knew it was the right thing to do, but he wouldn’t drive down our old street for a few years.

Now he is very happy that the family has a house somewhere, and he thinks of it as the family home although he doesn’t think of the guest room as his room (even though it mostly has his old furniture).

Washington Post COVID newsletter:

“The coronavirus is spreading inside American homes. New evidence suggests that covid-19 is following younger people home from work or social outings, then infecting older and more vulnerable members of the household. Front-line caregivers, elected officials and experts in Houston, South Florida and elsewhere say they are seeing patterns of hospitalization and death that confirm fears this would happen,’ our health desk wrote.”

This is what I keep wondering (and have mentioned before a few times, sorry to harp on it…) How are kids even coming home and living with parents? Are they staying safe and keeping parents safe?

I do think that safety for all requires a bigger space, so that kids can quarantine when they first arrive, and if they have a social activity or work activity that risks exposing parents. So a two bedroom condo versus house might be bad timing.

Sadness comes during COVID when kids can’t even visit, let alone come home for awhile.

Some of us are fortunate in that our kids are a little older and feel at home where they are, even across the country. Paying for it is a separate issue during COVID!

@compmom we picked my D up right at the beginning of the pandemic, and she has been maintaining the same sheltering practices as us - if anything, she is even more careful and less exposed than I am (since I do the grocery shopping and have also had some necessary medical appointments.) She has 3-4 friends who are local who are also being careful. They sit distanced out in the yards or on our large deck, or walk together with masks and 6 ft. apart. No partying and no restaurants. She has not been inside anybody else’s home. If I felt her behavior was bringing additional risk into our home I would ask her to go back to her apartment, but that hasn’t been the case at all. And we have the added bonus of having this extra time at home with her - it has been a blessing!

Sigh. I wish my kids were close enough that they could have moved in with DH and me. But they’re both married and living far away with their spouses. It’s just DH and me, and it’s lonely and sad.